On the Small Screen

Ocarina of Time 3D has to have claimed the most time in a while I’ve spent on a handheld game in my own home. I don’t know how it goes with you but it’s starting to look like this is a hard thing for a lot of people.

Ever since the 3DS and Vita hit the market – the first dedicated handhelds released since the rise of iOS, I’ve heard of more and more people who just don’t care for dedicated handheld gaming anymore. On the other end there are also a lot of gamers who still spend considerable time with them. Maybe it’s starting to become a matter of taste or a matter of lifestyle.

The easy argument against dedicated handheld gaming is that a lot of people just don’t have situations in life in which it’s the preferable choice. People might drive to work, work, drive home, and spend their free time at home playing a console or PC game – why play a low-end game on a small screen when you have the TV and an Xbox? If these people ever do get free time away from home it’s usually only enough for a five-minute session with an iPhone game.

If you have a 30 or 45-plus-minute commute, that’s perfect for a dedicated handheld which explains Japan’s shift to those platforms. I still see that it’s not uncommon for some gamers to play them at home though, which I, and apparently others, still find kind of difficult in adult life.

My handheld backlog is ridiculous – a pile of unfinished RPGs that spans my GBA, DS, PSP, and iPhone. In fact, I think I’ve only ever finished three handheld RPGs: Pokémon Blue, and the first two Golden Sun games.

Looking back, I don’t understand how my 10-year-old self spent so many hours on his Game Boy in the same house where his N64 resided. Come to think of it, the bulk of my handheld backlog is actually RPGs. RPGs weren’t really common on the Game Boy until the GBA, and now the current console gaming climate has forced a lot of JRPG developers onto handhelds.

When you think about it it’s really no different than reading a book in your own home, which is more or less how I had to treat my 40 hours with Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker on the PSP. It remains to be seen though if you can really do that with an iPhone.

The problem with most iOS games is that they’re not designed to really be fun for more than a few minutes at a time. So, whenever I’m away from home and idle for a while without my 3DS and I take out my phone, I’m actually more likely to start reading a book than playing a game (I guess that’s good?). This is even true of the handful of RPGs I have on the thing like Undercroft and Final Fantasy Tactics.

I guess I’m just gonna have to chalk this up to different strokes for different folks.


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One thought on “On the Small Screen

  1. y3n24 says:

    Periodically, I will play handhelds in my home for days on end, choosing them over my consoles. The main reason for this is the games. Simply put: handhelds have experiences that aren’t available on consoles, particularly the DS. Not only do some have unique gameplay, but certain games, like Pokemon, don’t have a big brother to compare to on consoles, so if I have to use my DS if I want to play it. Another reason is portability. Believe it or not, one can still do most things while playing a handheld, and the addictive nature of some games forces me to at least try. If I’m really hooked by a handheld game, I can make a sandwich, eat it, clean up, wash my hands, change clothes, watch tv, basically anything I want, all without leaving my DS. That convenience is another reason I find myself logging hundreds of hours on handheld games, whereas with consoles even the most addicting games will wear out their welcome by 150 hours or so. For me, these are probably the two biggest reasons to pull out a handheld while I’m at home, but I represent a realtively hardcore brand of gamer, so I’m a specialized case.

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